#1-1951: If putting your money where your mouth is, is any indication of one's favorite set, then 1951 Topps is without a doubt on the top of my list for 1950's Topps sets. This is a fun and affordable set to collect that gives you options to build it one series at a time if you want. After purchasing my first 1951 Topps card, I was hooked. It just seems to make the perfect transition between Topps and Bowman, and is probably the reason I got into collecting Bowmans as well. It's the underrated underdog set of the 1950s. Beckett typically skips 1951 in its listings and treats 1952 as the first Topps set. When Beckett does include the 1951 Topps set, it treats it as 2 different sets. This is completely different than how the Topps brand treats the 1951 set. Topps celebrates its anniversaries based off of 1951 like its 40th in 1991, its 50th in 2001, its 60th in 2011, and its 65th in 2016. Topps released a single 104-card set in 2015 to commemorate the combined 1951 Topps set consisting of two different series of 52-cards each. I like this set so much that even after recently completing all 106 cards, I purchased an additional 11 upgrades (over 10% of the set).
#2-1954: This was one of the first 1950's sets I started chasing. I like the large team icon with the portrait/action shot combo and autograph. When I first started collecting this set commons could be easily found for $1-$2, making it just as affordable as the 1955-1956 sets, but older. It's got a bunch of key rookies like Al Kaline, Tommy Lasorda, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and Harvey Kuenn.
#6-1953: These have the same cool large team icons of the 1954 and 1955 sets with large vibrantly painted player portraits more indicative of early 50's Bowman releases. The set is smaller and more affordable than the 1952 set. I don't like all the DP and SP designations that mess up being able to price a player for the player that they were. Even though it's a pain, I'm still choosing to buy 53's over 52's and the price differential isn't all that great, so how can I rate these two any other way?
#7-1952: This set rates very close to 1953 and 1955 to me. There's an awe associated with this set that I feel is a little overrated. Affordability is a big issue, especially with the high-number cards. I find myself less frequently adding new cards to my collection from this set. I'd probably collect this set if it were more affordable, perhaps moving my interest in it to #4 or #5. At $3-$4 per card, I'd rather collect 1940's Bowmans or even 1930's-1940's Play Ball. It's just not THAT great.
#8-1956: This was Jim Beckett's favorite set as indicated in one of my 1980's Beckett magazines. Perhaps that has changed a bit for him since then, I don't know. It combines all of the best features of the oversized cards. There's the painted portrait, the color action shot, a nice background, and the players autograph. It's a fairly large set with very affordable commons for the pre-1957 era. What's not to like? I don't know but if it belonged higher on my list, I figure that I'd be looking at, and collecting more of the cards in this set. The truth is that 1956 is getting ignored by me right now, so it's apparently not one of my favorite sets.
#9-1957: Perhaps this set was just too far ahead of it's time. These were the first full-color photo shots released since Bowman first attempted it in 1953. I don't think Topps would try to do it again until 1961. This set is very large for the 1950's, just like 1952, and it isn't as affordable to build as the other two modern-sized sets of the 1950's. Since I collect for value, the 1959 and 1958 sets come first when it comes to modern-sized sets of the 1950's.